Some BJP leaders seem suddenly overcome by the need for understatement, terming Narendra Modi’s victory in Gujarat as modest and perhaps below expectations when even the most hardened Modi bashers concede that this is a spectacular achievement. Beating anti-incumbency, Mr Modi has notched up 115 seats pushing aside the Congress which got 61 seats in the state. With this many feel that the road to Delhi could become all the smoother for the chief minister. The victory belongs solely to Mr Modi who worked with super-human energy in this campaign, his hologram filling in for his physical presence in many areas. He did not raise any divisive issues whether of caste or religion. He focused solely on his development record, Gujarati pride and, of course, took several swipes at the Congress. In contrast to the BJP’s single-minded determination to make its voice heard and to project the leadership of Mr Modi, the Congress seemed directionless, even agenda-less. It is true that senior Congress leaders did campaign, but it seemed a case of too little too late. There was no single Congress leader in the state capable of countering the Modi juggernaut. Veteran leader and former BJP strongman Keshubhai Patel’s new Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) failed to make any dent in Mr Modi numbers, though there were initial fears that the GPP would play the role of spoiler.
Despite his creditable showing, no one knows better than Mr Modi how difficult it will be to cover that distance from Gujarat to Delhi. For a start, many in his own party are fearful that a resurgent Mr Modi at the Centre, were the BJP to come to power, would marginalise them within the BJP. Then there are the unspoken reservations on the part of the RSS, the party’s ideological mentor. The RSS has always been comfortable with a leader that it can control. This explains why it was uncomfortable with the larger-than-life persona of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The party leadership is still harping on how it will take a decision on who will lead the charge in the next general election. But, it will be very hard put to ignore Mr Modi’s claim, were he to make one, for the top post. He has delivered time and again against severe odds at times. He has inspired investor confidence in the state and also put development at the forefront. Both have yielded huge returns for him. Whether anyone likes his Moditva brand or not, Narendra Modi cannot be described as a just another regional leader anymore. This is particularly true of a party which does not have too many tall leaders left. So, downplaying this as a modest victory is neither credible nor productive for the party. Narendra Modi is the brightest star in the BJP’s firmament today and he is certainly not modest about it.